View from the bench: Week 6

Aito Garcia RenesesWorld-renowned as a master teacher of basketball, Aito Garcia Reneses holds a place as one of the most prestigious coaches in Europe. He won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics to go with a ULEB Cup, two Korac Cups, nine Spanish Leagues and five Spanish Cup titles, just to name a few of his accomplishments in almost four decades on the benches of basketball powers like F.C. Barcelona, Joventut Badalona and Unicaja. Aito, as everyone in European basketball knows him, is also a regular contributor to the Mastermind Coaching Seminars of the Euroleague Basketball Institute. He joins to give his coach's point of view and analysis on Turkish Airlines Euroleague games.

When a team like Partizan mt:s Belgrade has unusually great strength inside what can the rivals do? Nikola Pekovic and Milan Macvan, who is also dangerous away from the basket, entered Wednesday's game averaging 33 points and a 41 performance index rating combined.

Well, this is what the team of Anadolu Efes head coach Ufuk Sarica did to stop them:

Efes used double-teams whenever Partizan sent the ball into the low post alongside the baseline, as we can see in Clip 1, where Macvan commits a turnover. When Pekovic took up the same position, he often had to pass the ball outside again because of the sagging Efes defense or because of the threat of those double-teams.

We also saw some blocks, by Ersan Ilyasova for instance, and some interceptions, like the one we can see in Clip 2, where Stanko Barac, defending from behind, encourages a pass to the inside. The moment it happens, moves in front to get the ball without touching the offensive player, in this case, Pekovic.

Another way to stop Pekovic and Macvan was used in the fourth period, when, probably to protect Esteban Batista - who has a shorter wingspan than Barac - Efes turned to a 2-1-2 zone defense.

Zone Press

Whenever they had a good chance, after a free throw or coming off a stoppage in the play, Efes defended with a 2-2-1 zone press, which worked out pretty well, as can be seen in Clips 3 and 4.

Partizan head coach Vlade Jovanovic's team didn't attack the Efes zone press well until the last quarter, as we can see in Clip 5, when instead of reaching a point of no returm, they break the pressure with one of the three possible passes.

This pressing defense was good for Efes to get steals, but also to diminish the inside game of Pekovic and Macvan by constantly interrupting Partizan's rhythm. The combined scoring of Partizan big men in this game was 18 points with an 11 performance index rating, way below their usual standards.


In Clip 6 we can see how Vladimir Lucic forces Barac to commit an offensive foul, charging. Normally, when there is a switch and a smaller player gets matched up with a bigger one, as happens here, there is another switch so that a bigger teammate can take his place. But until that happens, the smaller player must choose whether to defend in front of the big one, to prevent a pass to him, or behind him without using his hands, to limit the freedom of the big men who are uncomfortable when a small player defends them well.


Both teams had their heads in the game, but sometimes that becomes more difficult, and players always must try to have a good attitude. In Clip 7 we can see how after a mistake by the referee, since the refs should have conceded the basket because the ball had already touched the board when the block happened, two players of Partizan don't get back on defense, which forces the Partizan big man to defend an outside player, allowing Barac to get the ball in a favorable position to score.


Great fundamentals, which are so important when a player is making his moves, are shown by the versatile Dusko Savanovic in Clip 8. He fakes a shot, gets the ball back and uses another fake to move his defender in the low post, step through toward the basket and draw a foul.